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Home arrow Griffin's History arrow Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 7
Justification and Kindred Subjects: Chapter 7 PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.H. Oliphant   

The term "Total Depravity" has been used by many divines to express their view of the condition of man, in his fallen state. Andrew Fuller says: "All I mean by the term is, that the human heart is by nature totally destitute of love to God, or love to man as the creature of God, and consequently is destitute of all true virtue. A creature may be totally destitute of good and therefore totally depraved and yet capable of adding iniquity to iniquity without end." Some urge that if we hold to the doctrine of "Total Depravity," we must needs regard every man as being as bad, in every particular, as he can be, and therefore incapable of DOING worse or BEING worse. This last is not the sense in which we use the term. We think a man may be totally void of love to God, and yet be a good husband or neighbor; he may have natural love for his children and fellow beings and yet destitute of "eternal life." A man may be totally depraved and not as bad in all respects as he can be.

1st. There is no love in man by nature to God, nor love to man as the creature of God.

2nd. He is destitute of eternal life and hence incapable of performing any actions requiring eternal life, for its performance.

3rd. He is not led by the Spirit of God and he is not a son of God, for, "as many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God."

4th. By nature he is continually inclined to sin. Hence, incapable of being saved on a conditional plan.

The doctrine of total depravity is wholly unreconcilable with a conditional plan of salvation. Hence, if this be true, then salvation is wholly of grace.

I will first invite the reader’s mind to a prominent and common objection to this doctrine. That it destroys accountability and would show God to be unjust in the condemnation of sinners. But first, I will refer to the ground on which Mr. Wesley places the final condemnation of the wicked:

Doctrinal Tracts, page 69; "We do not, indeed, by this day of grace understand the whole time of a man’s life, though in some it may be extended to the very hour of death, but such a season, at least, as sufficiently clears God of every man’s condemnation, which to some may be sooner, and to others later."

This language implies that the right of condemnation did not exist until this day of grace, or "visitation" was given. Here is one sad mistake made by man. They look upon all that our Saviour did for man as being necessary to his just condemnation. If man was not in a state of condemnation, antecedent to any provision made, in grace, he needed no such a provision. We are incapable of understanding the gospel, as long as we consider it as necessary to man’s just condemnation. If he is not justly exposed to condemnation without the gospel, then a just God would not condemn him, and hence, he would be in no need of a gospel. On page 53, he says: "For since there was both an outward and an inward sufficiency for their recovery, their death lies at their own door, being wholly owing to their willful rejection of God and Christ."

Here he places the whole ground of their condemnation on their rejection of Christ. Now, suppose Christ had never died for them and been presented to them, then the "whole" ground of their condemnation would be removed. So that their salvation would have been certain if Christ had not made provision for them. This view of the subject certainly gives the wrong reason for the condemnation of men. On this plan the heathen would be in a secure state, as no gospel has been preached to them. Therefore they have not rejected it, and if the "whole ground" of condemnation lies in rejecting the gospel, then the heathen would be in a state of security till this is done, for them.

On page 19 he says: "Those who perish are damned for not believing in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

In many places he teaches that men are condemned for not receiving Christ, for not believing, and he clearly claims, that all this offer of mercy is to "sufficiently clear God in the condemnation of sinners."

My position is, that the whole scheme of salvation respects man as already in a state of condemnation, hence cannot be designed to furnish the grounds of condemnation.

The Bible abundantly teaches that Christ died for us, or in our stead; he took our place and stood in our room, our sins were laid upon him. Now, if Christ was condemned when he took our place; if when he took our place he was condemned, surely we were in a state of condemnation.

Gal. i. 4, "Who gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from this present evil world according to the will of God and our Father." This language implies that we were in a state of condemnation before he died for us; and if so, the grand object of the Saviour is to free men from condemnation, and not to furnish the ground on which they may in justice be condemned.

Eph. v. 25, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might present it unto himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." If sin is a proper ground of condemnation, surely we were justly condemned before he came.

I repeat, that when men regard the gospel, or any provision made by Christ, as necessary to "clear God in the condemnation of man," they fail to understand the nature of the gospel.

The doctrine of total depravity does not destroy the accountability of man. If there be any just excuse for sin or sinners, then there would be no need of mercy, nor of a Saviour.

There is a strong inclination in man to do wrong; none can deny this. This inclination to do wrong lies in a love of evil and hatred of right. Those who contend for "free will" do not mean any more by the term "free will" than that men are free to do as they choose, and this I grant; but I maintain that men choose, invariably, to do wrong. A slight inclination to do wrong would make some difficulty for men to do right, and if so, a stronger inclination to do wrong would increase the difficulty, and so where men are inclined continually to do wrong, it renders it impossible to do right, and none will say that an inclination to do wrong destroys accountability or lessens man’s guilt, and thus we believe that men are inclined to do wrong to that extent that not one action will ever be performed by man that is truly good, and even if men in nature were capable of doing works ESSENTIALLY good, they could make no amends for past sins, inasmuch as the law requires a man to do right CONTINUALLY. A man who is under obligation to labor every day for the government has no time to make good a lost day’s work, or a lost minute’s work.

It is generally conceded that a work, to be essentially good before God, must be performed from a principle of love to God, and must have God’s glory for its object, and if this be true, men who do not love God are incapable of good works, and this is the condition of every person not "born again," for "He that loveth is born of God." Now, a want of love to God disqualifies a man to do good works, but is a want of love to God a good and justifiable excuse for doing wrong? It does not mend the matter to say a man "can do right if he will," seeing that he has no will to do so. It will be admitted that a man condemned for murder, and sentenced to execution, can do nothing to deliver himself from his condemnation, but does this furnish a good and proper excuse for his crime? We think not, nor does it in the least mitigate his crime. So we maintain that men are under condemnation, and justly so, and therefore if they were ever so willing to live and do right, they would still be powerless to deliver themselves from their state of condemnation; but if men were not viewed by God as in a state just condemnation, there could be no just reason assigned why Christ should die in their room and for them. The whole tenor of the Bible treats of man as a sinner; proclaims the fact that "not one jot or tittle of the law shall pass," but that all must be fulfilled; that man is CARNAL, but the law is SPIRITUAL, and hence man is incapable of complying with its requirements, and hence "by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified."

In proceedings of law among men it is only necessary to show that the criminal has willfully committed a criminal act. It is not necessary to show how the criminal came in possession of an evil will, whether he acquired an evil habit by bad society or whether he acquired it hereditarily. It is insisted in that if we are sinful from hereditary taint, that this would mitigate our condition. If so, we reply, that if there be any just excuse for sin, it would cease to be sin, but this apology would amount to nothing in the criminal’s favor in a criminal court. If the criminal apologizes for his sins by claiming that it is NATURAL, or HEREDITARY, with him, to commit crime, this, instead of lessening his guilt, would increase his difficulty, and we regard man as being by NATURE inclined to sin, nor do we think this any just apology for his sins.

A man may be in debt, say, "ten thousand talents and nothing to pay." Yet his inability to pay would not settle the debt, nor lessen his obligation to pay. If a man owes you a sum of money, and is unable to pay you one cent, yet if he regrets owing it and hates the injury he has done you, you may feel some sympathy for him; but man is in debt to God a great sum, and is utterly unable to pay it, but he does not regret it, nor does he desire to pay it, but with "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart" he increases the debt. He is unable to pay any of his debt, for the law requires unceasing obedience, hence no spare time to make amends for past sins, nor is there any desire to do so in fallen man. If the whole of a man’s time were required to meet the current expenses of his family, he would have no spare time to settle old accounts.

When our Saviour said (John vi. 65), "No man can come unto me except it were given unto him of my Father," many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him. Jesus here announced the sentiment for which I am pleading, and many who had hitherto followed him rejected this sentiment.

From our early youth up we have acquired a habit of regarding INABILITY as destroying accountability. In our childhood if we were called on to perform a task above our strength, we felt that we had a good and just excuse. Where military officers have required impossibilities of their troops, they were under no obligation to obey. All through life we have learned to consider INABILITY as a just and valid excuse, and this is why the foregoing sentiments strike the minds of many as so unreasonable. They fail to see that the sentiment for which I contend is vastly different from the "inability" last referred to. The inability of man to obey God grows chiefly out of his DISLOYALTY to him, out of his UNWILLINGNESS, his ENMITY. If a soldier hates his superior officers with such perfect hatred that true and faithful obedience would be impossible, this would not destroy his accountability. If a child were exceedingly rebellious and malicious towards its parents, this would disqualify it for faithful obedience, and yet none would think this a valid excuse.

Paul says, "God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do those things which are not fitting." --- Rom. i. 28. It will not be urged that these persons, thus given over, were capable of rendering loving service to God, and yet none will say they were free of blame and sinless. Peter refers to persons that "have eyes full of adultery, and that can not cease from sin." Read Peter ii. 14. Now certainly, if inability destroys accountability, these people referred to by Peter were in a sinless state, but, obviously, he referred to this, their awful greed for sin, as an aggravation of their case, and with the view of setting their condition before us in the darkest light. So we maintain that man’s INABILITY TO DO right lies in qualities that aggravate his case, rather than mitigate it. We do not press these sentiments with pleasure; we tremble as we realize the condition of man---that he is his worst enemy, and he despises the only remedy.

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